Summary of this Part

This Part sets out the object of the Bill and the mechanical or technical provisions of the Bill which deal with commencement, offences and the extension of the Bill to External Territories.

Key provisions in this Part and major changes as a result of consultation on the draft Bill

Object of the Act (clause 3); and Regulatory framework to achieve object (clause 4)

During consultations on the draft Bill, stakeholders advised that:
  • protecting public health and safety and the environment should be paramount;
  • the inclusion in the object of references to ‘Australia’s international obligations’ and the ‘national interest’ were confusing. People were concerned that such references would leave open the possibility that the national interest (such as trade considerations) could override the protection of health and the environment;
  • while protection of health and the environment should be paramount, a secondary clause could be included which provides that the regulatory system:
    • should be as efficient and effective as possible – that is, it should not unnecessarily hinder the application of gene technology in Australia where the health of the public and the environment are not at risk; and
    • be consistent with the existing Commonwealth and State/Territory regulatory schemes relevant to GMOs, including the existing schemes for the regulation of food, agricultural and veterinary chemicals and therapeutic goods.
On the basis of these comments, the object of the Act has been changed to remove the reference to the national interest. The object now states:
    The object of this Act is to protect the health and safety of people, and to protect the environment, by identifying the risks posed by or as a result of gene technology, and by managing those risks through regulating certain dealings with GMOs.
The secondary clause – that the object should be achieved through a regulatory system that is efficient and effective and which operates in conjunction with the other regulatory schemes – has been retained.

As suggested during consultations, the ‘environment’ has also been defined (in clause 10) to clarify that the environment includes all ecosystems and their constituent parts, natural and physical resources and the qualities and characteristics of locations, places and areas. This is a very broad definition of the environment which will ensure that the GTR must act to protect all animals (including insects, fish and mammals), plants, soils and ecosystems (both aquatic and terrestrial).

For a clause by clause explanation of this Part please refer to the Explanatory Memorandum to the Gene Technology Bill 2000